Then and Now…

Yesterday we drove 11/2 hours so my husband could get a COVID vaccination. Everything went well and we were on the way home about noon. With certain restrictions, restaurants and fast food outlets are open. Since we have been erring on the side of caution, Gary chose Subway and we ordered at the counter but took our food to the car.

Eating in the car is a challenge. The cup holder already held hand sanitizer and water so those items had to be moved to make room for the drinks. Then we unwrapped the subs, barked elbows against the doors, and lamented forgetting napkins.

I was about to complain about how much I disliked eating in the car when it occurred to me that in the sixties and seventies, it was an exciting thing. We lived in the sticks so there weren’t a lot of choices BUT even our pokey little town had carhops at the “Dairy Bar.” They brought your food right to the car on a tray they attached to the partially open window. Burgers, fries and drinks were distributed and it seemed so decadent. Normally honest people stole mugs from A and W. The one I took was a favourite of my Dad’s.

“We used to think it was a treat to eat in the car,” I said.

Hubbie looked at me and confessed, “On a Sunday after playing a Saturday fastball tournament, the ‘boys’ would be bored and wondering what to do. Someone would suggest driving an hour get A and W.” Good times.

Once we got home, it was time for the dog walk. Guilt at leaving them alone played on me so I took them on a more novel route. A few days earlier, the open field had been fine. It was good until we had to cross bare ground to access the sidewalk. The bare ground had turned to mud, and I sank in, loading each shoe with about 5 pounds of muck.

Ugh. I did manage to get most of it off by stamping in remaining snow and rubbing the sides of the sneakers against one another. I should know better. When my brother and I were kids growing up on the farm, the spring runoff used to divert into a ditch alongside the road. It would recede leaving the most inviting yellow, sticky clay. Yes, we’d test our rubber boots in it. After getting stuck once, we were warned sternly to “stay out of the mud.” Still we played along side the ditch and my brother went in, sank past his ankles and couldn’t move. He was the younger sibling so I should have been in charge. I tried to pull him out. Several times. He stepped out of the rubbers and I tried to pull them out. No luck. We had to leave his boots, sticking up out of the clay, and go and confess. Mud. Good times.

Then, an adventures. Now, an inconveniences. Even with the annoyances, it was a pretty good day. Old boy vaccinated and I didn’t have to call him to rescue me and the dogs from my own folly. Good times.

And in 2021- resolutions

As the new year looms, and 2020 has been a tough one for many people, it’s time to make resolutions. Early records suggest that the first to promise improvements in the new year were the Babylonians 4,000 years ago. When Julius Caesar in 46 BC altered the calendar, January 1st was designated the beginning of the New Year. The God Janus is associated with doorways and aches and has two faces, one looking back and one to the future. Early Christians held special services to consider past sins and make promises to do better in the new year. Clergy wanted to provide a spiritual alternative to raucous celebrations.

The roots of the New Year’s resolution are in religion but in modern times the tradition has become secular. It’s just a convenient time to mark one’s determined vow to do better. Success at making actual progress is spotty. Deciding to improve and stick with it, is harder than making the resolution and it’s easy to backslide. Ask the gyms (pre-COVID) why they have such great deals for annual memberships in January.

Most resolutions are made in good faith but new routines don’t “take.” Personally, I have thought of, and even made promises to myself for the new year. Like the majority of people, I’ve been an abject failure. My house is not cleaner, I haven’t written every day, I haven’t conquered my habit of procrastinating.

That isn’t to say one shouldn’t make resolutions. The one time that I kept mine, was New Year’s Eve 46 years ago. I quit smoking. Quit and haven’t looked back. It wasn’t easy and my dearest beloved, walked by as I was writhing in the throes of withdrawal and blew Cigarello smoke in my face. Fortunately, for me, once I became a non-smoker, I soon didn’t feel the craving. I know that’s not true for everyone but I haven’t thought of cigarettes for years. Now the smoke bothers me; my eyes itch and redden.

As luck would have it, smoking has made some people pariahs, relegated to dingy corners outside to indulge their habit. The health concerns associated with the tars, nicotine, and other chemicals are much better researched. I quit before my children were born. I am very grateful for that; retroactive guilt is a nasty thing.

New Year’s resolutions? Sometimes, they do invoke change. 2020 has taught us all a bit about hardship, induced odd behaviour in others. Here’s to 2021. Happy New Year, Everyone.

Winter Fun – Part Two

Cross-country skiing is a fine exercise and can be a lot of fun. At one time, we’d get together with friends for an afternoon of the great outdoors on skies. I confess to buying (and wearing because it was expensive) a blazing yellow outfit. Chances are I would never be lost; like a winter dandelion, I stood out.

The outfit isn’t quite bright enough.

Once at the “creek”, we started off with one of the gentlemen in the lead. After a bit of what I considered bossy competition, I decided to venture out on my own. How can you get lost in a small area where the choices of trails are limited? You can’t because you can see into the valley to your destination but there was no route down. Trees, shrubs, and bush blocked my descent. By the time I determined that I was going to have to make my way through this uncharted territory, the other skiers had already gathered by the bonfire.

I pushed off and sank into the snow past my knees. Still it had to be faster to continue on skis. Undergrowth tangled around my feet and interrupted my downward progress. A couple of times I fell but by this time I was committed and climbing back up the steep slope wasn’t an option. I more or less tumbled and stumbled my way back to the others. And I was right about my visibility. Everyone watched my awkward descent and on arrival at the bonfire, I was greeted by unsympathetic laughter.

I paid for my stubbornness but those who followed the leader encountered their own challenges. They skied along the top of the hills before heading into the valley. Then they skimmed along the smooth snow-covered surface of the frozen creek until their route was interrupted by fallen trees. Once they managed to navigate those obstacles, a beaver dam blocked their way. The creek continued 10 feet below the pond created and everyone had to clamour down.

By the time we gathered around the bonfire, the fresh air and exercise had stoked appetites. Anecdotes were exchanged while smokies and wieners cooked over the fire. That simple fare never tasted so good. Winter can be fun.

Winter Fun

It’s been too easy for me to denigrate our winter weather, finding fault, complaining, and dreading it. How fickle memory is. Some of our best times have been outdoors in winter. Not every day is good for sledding or skiing but it’s not every summer day that you want to dive into the lake or lie on the beach taking in the rays.

Not the creek but still the great outdoors.

Every Canadian kid can narrate a tale of misadventure sledding, tobogganing, or sliding headlong on some other device to the bottom of a snow-covered slope. Near-death experiences aren’t uncommon but it isn’t every time that a parent witnesses the close call.

Friends used to invite us out to the “creek” to sled and cross-country ski on the hills. The country is quite rugged and the route the kids were to slide down provided a long, fast ride. My son was 8 years old and his vehicle of choice was the “Sno Nut.” It was similar in shape to the tube from a tire but the material it was made from meant it was a racer.

I was standing on my skis, halfway down the hill on a natural plateau before the final run. C—- left from the top and gaining admirable speed hit a bump as he approached me and was airborne. He flew past at eye level and careened down the hill, at an incredible rate. All I could do (all anyone could do) was watch in horror. I thought I was going to see my son race to a horrible end. Just before he hit the willows at the edge of the creek, C—- bailed. The “Sno Nut” carried on into the bushes and my son wasn’t even bruised.

There was no more riding the “Sno Nut” from the crest of the hill. It was the only sled that went so fast so the other sliders were safer. The adults cross-country skied and at the end of the day of winter fun, there was the bonfire. Flames leaped into the darkness as we consumed the food we’d brought. When is was time to go, everyone pitched in. A great winter day.

Sheltering… Masks? Hell, yes.

The mask protects the vulnerable and in settings where one can’t social distance, masks should be mandatory. They are a little uncomfortable. For me, it was a bit like hiding under the covers in bed and breathing in your own moist exhalations and sweat.

Me.

The advantages? Take a look at the picture. The mask hides so many ‘imperfections.’ Wrinkles?? A few by the eyes and on the forehead but hey, I could just be serious. Jowls? Surely you jest, none in sight. Don’t look at the neck. The glasses help disguise laugh lines (so much gentler than calling them crow’s feet.)

The masks don’t have to be plain, disposable surgical masks like the one I’m sporting. For the fashion maven, they are the new accessory. Companies and individuals have leapt into the void and you can order cloth masks in any colour and with a variety of prints, pictures, or personal cartoons. I believe some clothing companies have matching masks for popular outfits.

I haven’t been much of a clothes horse for quite a number of years. Too many structures, ‘go south.’ You have to pair age of face with outfits that aren’t too avant garde and comfort is more important than it once was. But if wearing a mask protects others and makes me look good, win-win. Stay safe, stay home, but if you’re out and about, wear a mask.

Sheltering…Forbidden Fruit

“I don’t even normally go out much. But now that I can’t, I really want to.”

That’s a quote from a phone conversation I had with a former colleague a couple of days ago. We had settled the reason for the call and carried on into a general catching up. A lot of the conversation centred on the pandemic and that’s natural.

Her comment got me thinking about what things I would like to do but shouldn’t right now. I’m not talking about family and friends. Missing them goes without saying. Lately I have caught myself in nostalgic reminisces of shopping for groceries at the local Coop.

What!!?? Who am I kidding? I never enjoyed getting the supplies for the next week. It’s a chore and one that Gary had taken over, shopping as I’ve mentioned in the European manner, a little every day. That doesn’t work in these COVID-19 days and so we order once a week and if we don’t have something, we go without. There is no explanation for the pleasure at unpacking the delivery when it arrives.

In my ahem, later years, shopping has lost most of its charm. Wandering around and examining merchandise I don’t need had become far less attractive but suddenly, I would like to “look around.” A definite no-no. Even with the lockdown lifting somewhat, browsing isn’t the way to go.

Some of it is the human contact. Whenever I was “downtown” on some errand, I’d run into a neighbour, friend, acquaintance. Now if I see someone when I”m walking the dogs, even someone I’d avoid in normal times, I’m waving and calling hello.

Times are not normal and I’ll have to adjust. It’s not bad for me. I’m not sick and none of my family or friends is. I’m not working on frontlines and neither are they. I’m inconvenienced and tempted to ‘bend the rules.’ I’m resisting and recognizing that some of my longing is related to being told I “can’t.” So resist, stay home and stay safe.

Sheltering- The Stay Home Nazi

I walked into the yard with my dogs yesterday and my husband arrived from his truck, hands in the air, saying, “I only drove by. I didn’t go into any stores.”

I admit to being adamant in my directions about avoiding other people. I follow my own rules and have cajoled and scared my husband into honouring them, too. Our groceries are delivered, one of us goes into a store, our drives into the country are into the boonies. So far into the boonies, that if the truck broke down, that’s where our bleached bones would be eventually found.

I can be mean.

Nazi or not, the isolation is wearing on everyone. A painting friend texted to run the idea of a final painting session (we haven’t met since before March 13th) by me. I had to say I didn’t think it was a good idea, even though she said no food would be served. It’s just not time yet. Community spread seems to be through gatherings; shopping turns out to be safer. In social settings, we forget ourselves, we are closer, and more animated. (We can thank covid 19 for making shopping for groceries and toilet paper exciting.) Still in Safeway or Save-on, it’s easier to physical distance. (If you want to.) Another friend is trying but turning into a rebel, breaking rules, and going into stores to buy almost necessities. It’s hard.

Being sick is hard, too. So is having someone in extended care, in the ICU, or on a ventilator. Young people who look to be in perfect health may have underlying conditions- diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis. The list could go on. Without being too preachy, hang in there. Better and I quote “to have a real visit” than to stop by to see a tombstone. Harsh words but true.

Another day of being the Stay Home Nazi. It’s kind of an unsung and unappreciated role. I will struggle on and try to be as strict with myself. Stay safe and stay home.

There Are Always Glitches.

I recently treated myself to a new iPad, planning to use it, I confess, for scrolling, for writing, and viewing cute dog videos. Because it was expensive, (Apple products are), I thought I would get it set up by a professional at an Apple Store.

When I approached the technician, I made the mistake of saying I had purchased the iPad from Best Buy.

“O,” he said. “We don’t do that for products not purchased at an Apple Store.”

My first impulse was to “go off” on him but then I realized he was busy and an employee at the bottom of the food chain who didn’t make policies.

Instead, I said, ‘What??!! I’m going to phone Steve Jobs…”

“On her ouija board,” interrupted my son who was with me.

With his help and my own iPhone, setting the new device up was easy, although it did involve a little of the obsessive-compulsive, on my part.

My daughter gave me the keyboard I requested for Christmas. Today I wanted to send the Pages document I had written to my PC to print. The old version of the word processing program used to convert the document to Word, no issues. (I should mention I’m cheap and didn’t buy a wifi enabled printer.) Not so, the new Pages.

Particular frustration ensued when the pop-up message announcing the end of support for my Word 2010 in October 2020. Now I will have to buy an subscription (to the tune of $79 annually) if I want to used Word. Gah. I have a lot of my “treasured” writing in Word so I have to open the mothy wallet.

I’m waiting to see what other “surprises” are in store. I do like the iPad and I like Word. I just didn’t expect to do things myself or to buy Office 365. It’s a new Year.

Finally, a hummingbird

For years now, my husband and I have engaged in futile efforts to attract a humming- bird (or in fantasies) hummingbirds to the yard. There are trees around and every year I try to plant flowers that will attract the illusive little birds. This season it was some scarlet runner beans. They climbed up the metal trellis I put behind them and dutifully produced the red flowers. No hummingbirds.

We have had crows, magpies, and blue jays. They are large enough to escape the small hawks which have taken up residence in our neighbourhood. There were few songbirds because- hawks. They might prey on hummingbirds, we theorized. Despite years of failure, a feeder with a sugar solution (and no red dye to harm anything that showed up) was hung. It’s been a year for the wasps and they had no trouble feeding on the artificial nectar.

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If you look at the right “flower” you can see one of our regular visitors.

I gave up but Gary kept watching and hallelujah one morning, he saw an elusive visitor. He tried not to be disappointed because it was a lone, small hummingbird, a female. It was single and in fragile health he thought. Our hummingbird didn’t hover, but sat to feed. It wasn’t much bigger than the wasps but she wasn’t intimidated by them.

After observing her several times (me, even a couple), and consulting the “bird book” and Mr. Google, we determined that our little green bird was indeed, a female Calliope hummingbird. And here she is. I wish I could say the photo was mine but it isn’t. She is very dainty and soon will be headed south.

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Again, thanks to google, I can tell you that she is, weighing about as much as a ping-pong ball, the smallest, long-distance migratory bird in the world. Calliope humming-birds winter in Mexico and then in spring fly up the Pacific Coast. Our little girl is out of her range since we are farther east than this hummingbird species is usually found; Calliope hummingbirds are more likely to summer in BC. Soon she will make her way back along the Rockies to Mexico, a round-trip of 5,000 miles.

Calliopes are feisty little birds and have been seen chasing red-tail hawks. We will be looking anxiously next spring for the return of our little hummingbird. Surely she is not an anomaly; surely she will bring a mate and maybe friends.

 

Apple Pie Procrastination

There are two apple trees in our yard; they are mature and produce lots of apples high up in the branches. If this was a normal year, the fruit on the far tree would be just ready. This wasn’t a normal year and the apples are scarred from hail and were ready way sooner than most years. I managed, with a bit of a threat to life and limb, to pick enough for, get this, one pie. I knew I wanted to make some pies; I freeze them and if there is a special occasion or if it’s a nasty winter day, I’ll pull one out and voila! a treat. I did procrastinate just a little and when I went to pick the apples, a lot had already dropped. The ones left were hard to reach and as I said, scarred and overripe. I made a pie anyway and it’s in the freezer.

pie

And here it is. I channeled my mom just a little. Any time she made a pie, the extra bit of pastry was turned into a little bit of art, usually mimicking a poinsettia. So there it is- I cheated and used a cookie cutter but there is a decoration on this single pie from this year’s apples.

There were a few left over so I googled a recipe and made an apple-cheddar loaf. Canadian Living has the best recipes that taste good, aren’t crazy to make, and turn out. The loaf was pronounced pretty good, and “I may have a slice of that for breakfast.” The husband isn’t good with new flavours. I’m not suggesting that there is anything unique or unusual about the loaf but it does taste good.

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And here it is, under wraps because I tried a slice before I remembered to take a picture. If you want to try the loaf, click here for the  recipe.

I realize it is the May Long Weekend…sigh. We aren’t doing anything and for the people camping, it isn’t the best of weather. Weather didn’t used to stop us. Before retirement, it was the last hurrah of summer. If like me, you’re home this long weekend, get your apples while you can. Pies and apple bread.